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timent and of actions in the citizens, should be the aim of every wise and good government. How much are these principles promoted, by this beautiful and sublime effect of our judicial system. No particular citizen can threaten the exercise of this tremendous power: with the exercise of this tremendous power, no particular citizen can be threatened. Even the unfortunate prisoner, the day of whose trial is come, the jury for whose trial are selected, impannelled, and returned-even this unfortunate prisoner cannot be threatened with the exercise of this tremendous power by any particular citizen. When he comes to the bar and looks upon the prisoner, a single supercilious look will produce a peremptory rejection.
Uncommonly jealous is the constitution of the United States and that of Pennsylvania upon this subject, so interesting to the personal independence of the citizens. The formidable power we have mentioned is interdicted even to the legislatures themselves. Neither congress nor the general assembly of this commonwealth, can pass any act of attainder for treason or felony. Now, an act of attainder is a legislative verdict.
I have said, that this authority remains with the people at large. Potentially, indeed, it does; actually, it cannot be said to remain even with them. The contrivance is so admirably exquisite concerning this tre mendous jurisdiction, that, in the general course of things, it exists actually no where. But no sooner does
i Cons. U. S. Art. 1. s. 9. Cons. Penn. Art. 9. s. 18. VOL. II.
any particular emergency call for its operations, than it starts into immediate existence.
But it remains, that I give satisfaction with regard to the inquiry-how shall this burthen, attended with so much uneasiness, be born by those, upon whom, though only occasionally, it is laid?
It is, we acknowledge, a most weighty burthen. That man must, indeed, be callous to sensibility, who, without emotion and anxiety, can deliberate on the question -whether, by his voice, his fellow man and fellow citizen shall live or die. But while capital punishments continue to be inflicted, the burthen must be born; and while it must be born, every citizen, who, in the service of his country, may be called to bear it, is bound to qualify himself for bearing it in such a manner, as will ensure peace of mind to himself, justice to him whose fate he may determine, and honour to the judicial administration of his country. By so qualifying himself, though, in the discharge of his duty, he will feel strong emotions, he will, from the performance of it, feel no
I must again enter upon a review of some principles, of which notice has already been taken.
With regard to the law in criminal cases, every citizen, in a government such as ours, should endeavour to acquire a reasonable knowledge of its principles and rules, for the direction of his conduct, when he is called to obey, when he is called to answer, and when he is called to judge. On questions of law, his deficiencies will be supplied by the professional directions of the
judges, whose duty and whose business it is professionally to direct him, For, as we have seen, verdicts, in criminal cases, generally determine the question of law, as well as the question of fact. Questions of fact, it is his exclusive province to determine. With the consideration of evidence unconnected with the question which he is to try, his attention will not be distracted; for every thing of that nature, we presume, will be excluded by the court. The collected powers of his mind, therefore, will be fixed, steadily and without interruption, upon the issue which he is sworn to try. This issue is an issue of fact. Its trial will depend upon the evidence. Evidence, in every cause, is that which produces: evidence, in a capital cause, is that which forces belief.
Belief, as we have seen, is an act of the mind, not easily described, indeed, but easily felt. Does the juror feel its force? Let him obey the constitution of his nature, and yield to the strong conviction. If the evidence produce, upon the mind of each of his fellow jurors, the same strong conviction, which it produces on his, their sentiments will be unanimous; and the unanimous sentiments of all will still corroborate the strong conviction of each. If a single doubt remain in the mind of any juror, that doubt should produce his dissent; and the dissent of a single juror, according to the principles which we have explained, and, we trust, established, will produce a verdict of acquittal by all.
Considered in this manner, is the duty of a juror, in a capital case, intolerably burthensome? It cannot, indeed, as we have said, be discharged without emotion: but the unbiassed dictates of his own constitution will teach-will force him to discharge it properly.
In criminal-in capital cases, with what sublime majesty does the trial by jury now appear to its ravished beholders! In the first and purest principles of society its foundations are laid: by the most exquisite skill, united with consummate benignity, the grand and finely proportioned edifice has been raised: within its walls, strong and lofty as well as finely proportioned, freedom enjoys protection, and innocence rests secure.
THE SUBJECT CONTINUED.
OF SHERIFFS AND CORONERS.
THE sheriff is an officer of high respectability in our juridical system, and was known to the most early ages of the common law.
Among the Saxons, his power was very great and extensive-judicial as well as ministerial. In his ministerial character, he executed the writs of the king and the judgments of his courts: in his judicial character, the sheriff presided in the several courts of justice comprehended within the sphere of his jurisdiction. He was chosen in the county court by the votes of the freeholders; and, like the king himself, says Selden, was entitled to his honour by the people's favour.
All the other nations of Gothick and German origin, who, on the ruins of the Roman empire, founded kingdoms in the different parts of Europe, had officers of the
Bac. on Gov. 41.